Oshiomhole faces the revenge of history
Long before Comrade Adams Oshiomhole rounded off his second term as governor of Edo State, it was obvious that the position of National Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC) occupied by his kinsman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, was awaiting him. President Muhammadu Buhari, while on an official visit to commission some projects embarked upon by the then outgoing governor, had said based on the work done in the state, Edo people should please loan the former labour leader to the Federal Government for another work at the centre.
No sooner had Buhari made the remark than words started flying around that owing to the need to have a strong character lead the party to the forthcoming electoral battle against the former ruling party that was dethroned in 2015, the comrade governor had been penciled to succeed Oyegun. In July 2018, that promise was fulfilled, as the presidency, in concert with other APC bigwigs, cleared all hurdles for Oshiomhole to mount the saddle as the second substantive national chairman of the ruling party.
To ensure Oshiomhole’s emergence, the party’s big men resolved that Oyegun should not seek another term in office as national chairman, even as other eligible aspirants, particularly another former Edo State governor, Prof. Osarheimen Osunbor and former Cross River State governor, Clement Ebiri, were prevailed upon to shelve their ambition.
After succumbing to pressures on him to withdraw from the contest, Prof. Osunbor visited Oshiomhole on Wednesday, June 19, 2018, to intimate him (Oshiomhole) of his decision. While assuring the incoming national chairman that I “never joined the race for chairmanship to fight you,” Osunbor declared: “I appreciate the relationship which has existed between your family and mine over the years. I do not want this to destroy our relationship. I am happy the president is with you and the majority of our party leaders are with you, and I have great respect for Mr. President.”
He disclosed that Oshiomhole had the experience to lead the party to the next level, adding, “I can tell you that by Saturday we may go for that election unopposed so that we will not go and start counting votes that will take us for too long. I congratulate you and I will work to ensure you succeed.”
But barely one year in office, calls for Oshiomhole to resign became a popular singsong among the party faithful, following what the members called his highhandedness and double standards in the running of the party. Failing to resolve the plethora of parallel state congresses that preceded the National Convention that produced him, Oshiomhole created his own round of problems by his unilateral decision to order state chapters to adopt direct or indirect methodologies of selecting party flag bearers.
Before long, it was seen that the indirect and direct methodologies were Oshiomhole’s trump to favour his preferred candidates and punish others, especially incumbents that were not in his good books or those of his godfathers. For instance, despite objections from some party faithful to the use of the direct primary method in Osun due to the nebulous membership register, Oshiomhole insisted. At the end of the day, some party leaders, including the former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yussuf Lasun, walked out of the process.
While the issue of parallel congresses roiled the state, a major problem broke out when the Deputy National Chairman, Senator Lawal Shuaibu, wrote the national chairman, asking him to resign on account of his incompetence.
In the letter titled, ‘APC: Its fortunes versus misfortune, time to act,” Shuaibu said Oshiomhole lacked the composure to lead the party, adding that APC under his watch “had become badly fractured in virtually every constituency in the country and was fast losing the goodwill it enjoyed before Oshiomhole’s emergence.”
However, some state chairmen came to Oshiomhole’s defense, claiming that the hiccups in the party were caused by the booby traps left by the former national chairman, Oyegun, which made it impossible for the incumbent to operate. But Oyegun countered in a statement by his Special Assistant on Public Affairs, Ray Morphy, that Oshiomhole’s failings stemmed from the fact that “he lacks the temperament that is required to run a political party.
“He lacks the capacity to manage the different interests and tendencies that constitute a political party. He engages his mouth before engaging his mind; so he offends party members.”
As the schemes for 2023 gather momentum, it is obvious that Oshiomhole’s decision to take on state governors on the APC’s platform is proving to be his Achilles heels, particularly when the governors constitute the grassroots’ commanders of the party.
In trying to ride roughshod over the states’ chief executives in the false belief that the might of the presidency that propelled to the chairmanship position was still at his behest, he stands to pay the price of history. As Americans would say, what begins by dividing continues to divide. The battle for survival for Oshiomhole seems to have begun, particularly given his domestic firefight with his home governor, Godwin Obaseki.